Social media is filled with quizzes that test to see which Disney princess you are most like or which celebrity shares your Myers-Briggs type. Science and pop culture seem to share a fascination with boxing you in to a type based on how you behave.
Is being “typed” a way of limiting who you are and what you can do? Or are these boxes simply a way to see yourself accurately so you can test the boundaries of your boxes and accept them or expand beyond them based on your ongoing evolution and growth?
Setting the Stage for Happiness
There are two ways to look at knowing yourself.
Approach one: If you know who you are, you can set your life up in a way that makes you happy. If you know you enjoy rising early, and you thrive in an uncluttered and organized environment that is predictable, you can set up your life so you are surrounded by like-minded people. You can tell everyone in your life who you are and hope that they will recognize your needs.
This way sets the stage for happiness.
At first glance, setting the stage seems like a smart way to become happier. Knowing things about yourself (Are you a saver or a spender? Do you tend to be analytical or emotional? Are you introverted or extroverted?) can contribute to your happiness. Unfortunately, if you become too stuck on needing others to conform to your individual needs, setting the stage can actually decrease your happiness.
There is a fine line between recognizing yourself and attaching your level of comfort in your skin to this ego-centric interpretation of self.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Another way to think about knowing about yourself is a little different.
Approach two: In understanding the unique things about you, you can see where you are different and where you are the same as others and use your strengths and recognize your weaknesses in a way that allows you to choose happiness.
This way allows you to be flexible whereas setting the stage for happiness is rigid.
Knowing, for example, that you have a tendency to be more self-motivated than others allows you to understand that people you work with may require more accountability than you do. Knowing that you love change more than most people allows you to lower the expectations you place on your family to comfortably adapt to your whims. Knowing that you don’t like structure allows you to prepare yourself if you choose to work in a setting like academia or the military where structure is integral to the culture.
Knowing who you are doesn’t mean that you are limited by the label. It also doesn’t mean you can’t change or evolve.
This way of knowing yourself sets yourself up for success.
Ways to Learn More About Yourself
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone thinks the way you do. By learning about how your personality differs from those around you, you are better able to communicate in a way where you are heard. Some popular personality assessments include:
Authentic people know who they are and aren’t afraid to show themselves to others. As Brené Brown said in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Set the Stage and Flourish
If setting the stage for happiness was all it took to be happy, then you would be able to maintain an even keel even when an external factor rocked the boat. Mistakes, setbacks, and obstacles are part of life. The real trick is the ability to stay grounded and happy throughout these potential happiness zappers. You may see yourself as an introvert but the job you love might require you to speak in public occasionally. If you can only be happy when you are not the center of attention, then how could you possibly be happy giving a speech?
The balance comes when you are able to set the stage but also have the awareness that it is just a stage.
This is where meditation becomes helpful. By spending time in meditation you connect to the true self. This time spent slowing down and looking within helps you to see yourself more clearly and accurately. Over time you also deepen your connection to others as we touch on oneness—beyond mind, intellect, and ego. Then the perceived difference between yourself and others—that personality type or characteristic that was highlighted by the personality assessment—seems less important than who you are beneath the mask.
You define yourself as different and unique; that is part of the human experience. True happiness happens when you see everyone is a unique wave in one ocean. Learn to love who you are without attaching your happiness to it.